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Councillor's rallying cry for free outdoor dining permits

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City councillor Houssam Abiad has issued a rallying cry to city businesses after narrowly losing a vote on free outdoor dining permits at a fiery council meeting last night.

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Abiad argued hospitality businesses were “doing it tough” in Adelaide’s CBD, and it was unfair that they could pay more in outdoor dining fees than a food truck would pay for its city licence.

“This council is prepared to do more for a mobile food vending program than it is for its own hospitality businesses,” Abiad told the meeting.

“I’m in regular contact with hospitality businesses – some of them paying over $5000 a year for [outdoor dining].

“Those businesses need to be supported.

“We [would be] providing here an incentive to city businesses and hospitality – we are saving them money, we are encouraging them to activate outdoor space, which is important for our city vibrancy.”

But opposing councillors told the meeting that removing the council outdoor dining fee would amount to a “cash handout” that would fail to generate economic activity and drain $400,000 a year from Town Hall coffers.

North Ward councillor Phil Martin said it cost the council about $400,000 a year to administer outdoor dining in the city, and the program takes in about that much revenue.

Fellow North Ward councillor Sue Clearihan said outdoor dining fees of about $22 a square metre were cheap and had “never been a disincentive”.

“It’s never stopped anyone from putting tables and chairs outside,” she said.

Area councillor Sandy Wilkinson said landlords would absorb the reduction in costs without adding any more outdoor dining.

Fellow Area councillor Sandy Verschoor said she would support a year-long freeze on outdoor dining fees for business operators wanting to trial or expand outdoor dining, but not for businesses that already have it.

Abiad, Lord Mayor Martin Haese and councillors Alex Antic, Prescilla Corbell and Natasha Malani voted for a motion to consider removing outdoor dining fees as part of current budget deliberations, but it was defeated by one vote.

The council’s 2016-17 draft budget is currently out for consultation.

Abiad told the meeting he would gather city businesses at Town Hall and collect signatures to try to convince his colleagues of the merits of free outdoor dining.

“If it means to some councillors that I need to go out there .. and get more than 1000 people to support this … I will do that,” he told the meeting.

“I will have this whole gallery packed with hospitality businesses that will tell you they’re doing it tough.”

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